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More juniors pass grad test on first try

LAWRENCEVILLE - Passing rates for local high school juniors went up on the Georgia High School Graduation Test this year, according to results released Friday by Gwinnett County Public Schools.

On average, the passing rate for Gwinnett students was 10 percentage points higher than the state's in the area of science and six points higher in social studies. Gwinnett juniors also exceeded the Georgia average in the areas of language arts and mathematics.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks was excited about the gains students had made in the different subject areas.

"We are extremely proud of our students and their academic accomplishments," Wilbanks said. "Our students have traditionally done well in the English/language arts and mathematics sections of this test. What is particularly exciting about this year's results, and cause for celebration, are the gains in social studies and science. They provide clear evidence that our focus on teaching and learning is making a difference."

The test was administered in March to more than 7,200 Gwinnett juniors. Georgia students are required to pass the graduation test in order to earn a high school diploma. They are given subtests in the areas of writing, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science. If they don't pass on their first attempt, they have opportunities to re-take the test before their class graduates.

Three high schools - Brookwood, North Gwinnett and Parkview - had 100 percent passing rates in the areas of language arts and mathematics. Norcross High School also had 100 percent of regular education students pass the language arts component on their first try.

Meadowcreek High School showed the most significant gains in all subject areas. Compared to last year's results, the passing rate in science went up 24 points, from 59 percent to 83 percent. During the same time period, the social studies passing rate rose to 92 percent from 79 percent. There were also gains in language arts and mathematics.

Passing rates increased on the test among English Language Learners. In language arts, 61 percent passed this year - a 12 point gain from last year. Their passing rate also went up eight points in science to 23 percent.

Minority students also made gains in several areas, particularly in the science component. Black students' scores jumped seven points, while Hispanic students' passing rates increased by three points. Passing rates for Asian/Pacific Islander students increased five points, from 67 to 72 percent.

"The gains achieved by various subgroups of students should be applauded as the achievement gap closes; however, the fact remains that there is work still to be done. That said, I am confident that our efforts to continuously improve the AKS curriculum, deliver quality instruction and accurately monitor student progress will result in improved achievement for all students," Wilbanks said.

Earlier this year, Gwinnett juniors set a new record for the percentage of students passing the writing component of the test, which was administered in October. In Gwinnett public high schools, 98 percent of students passed the state writing component on their first attempt. That was two points higher than the metro Atlanta average and three points higher than Georgia passing rate.